OSC InterGalactic Medicine Show #21, Feb./Mar. 2011

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OSC InterGalactic Medicine Show #21, Feb./Mar. 2011

Brutal Interlude” by Wayne Wightman
The Devil’s Rematch” by Spencer Ellsworth
Go Home, And Be With Your Families” by Steven R. Stewart
Ratoncito’s Last Tooth” by Mike Hill
A Frame of Mother-of-Pearl” by Cat Rambo
Breakout” by Edmund R. Schubert

Reviewed by Jo-Anne Odell

In “Brutal Interlude” by Wayne Wightman, Walter Roscoe watches hopelessly as his neighbor, Noreen Brown, becomes the unwilling object of a TV reality show. To cope, Noreen develops an alter ego, Sylvia Romilar. The story chronicles her rise to stardom, and beyond.

This is a disjointed version of “The Truman Show” without its redeeming qualities. To say that my interest waned would be an understatement. I had to come back a half-dozen times just to work my way through it.

The Devil’s Rematch” by Spencer Ellsworth tells the tale of the day Satan returned to Wadesville for a rematch with Paster Tucker. Paster Tucker is getting up in years, so Satan gives him a week to find a younger champion.

The mayor wants to do his part to save Wadesville, so he invites Elmer and his mother to dinner. Elmer is the strongest young man in town, and the only man of color. He doesn’t have much to do with the rest of them, hadn’t since someone hung his father. When the mayor offers to get Elmer the name of the guilty party, Elmer agrees to wrestle Satan. It’s easier for Elmer to handle the devil than the depth of prejudice in the southern town.

This story has a folksy tone and moments of humor. In passing, it mentions the seventies, and I wonder if it’s a reprint. Everything from its cast of stereotypes to its heavy-handed treatise on racism seems forty years past its prime.

In “Go Home, And Be With Your Families” by Steven R. Stewart, Herb considers his future in the context of his failed marriage and his inability to talk to his daughter. It’s a world that receives TV shows from an alien race. The major networks have started to broadcast them. Herb receives an offer to voice one of the most popular characters. As the network learns the fate of that other world, Herb’s life starts to unravel.

This story did capture my interest, enough that I read it without skipping to the end to see how long it was. It just felt heavy-handed again, with a shallow protagonist and a message that’s trying too hard.

Ratoncito’s Last Tooth” by Mike Hill chronicles the life of Ratoncito Perez, the strongest man in the world. Ratoncito is a good man, using his ability to help his family and community. He makes a connection between his strength and his teeth, and realizes that, when he loses his last tooth, he’ll die.

It’s short, neither dreadful nor remarkable.

A Frame of Mother-of-Pearl” by Cat Rambo tells of Hattie Fender, who is a witch. While cleaning, she finds a malignant spell and notices a frame missing from a cabinet. Hattie discovers that her sister gave it to a peddler for mending. As she tries to discern the identity of the peddler, Hattie finds herself enmeshed in a web of dark magic involving her sister and her former lover.

This one again, was all right. It drew me in with its first paragraph, and then jumped around in time, tossing me back out. The story felt contrived, providing obfuscation in lieu of real surprises.

In “Breakout” by Edmund R. Schubert, Brian is an astronomer. He goes to the local prison one night a week, to teach. It’s his escape, his chance to get away from a wife he despises. He’s too weak either to leave or to stand up to her. When something unusual happens, his whole life changes.

This is more the type of story I’ve come to expect from IGMS. It has a solid pace and some unexpected twists.

I enjoyed the last issue of IGMS I reviewed and was disappointed in this one, enough that I wondered if there was a change of editor. So I looked, and discovered that Schubert is the editor. I was surprised, to say the least, as his story is the only one I liked.